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The fauna of Australia


Biogeography: plate tectonics
Ernst Mayr Scientist
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My interest in biogeography is documented by papers I wrote from my PhD thesis on… which was on biogeography; it was on the spread of the serin finch across Europe, right up to a major book which is right now in press, dealing with the birds of northern Melanesia. In 1974, I published a collection of essays called Evolution and the Diversity of Life and in this volume are reprinted nine of my major papers dealing with the field of biogeography, and I’ll deal… I will explain some of the subjects with which I dealt. For instance, it is always claimed that the… establishment of plate tectonics in the mid-1960s completely changed everything in biogeography. By contrast, I showed that as far as birds are concerned, plate tectonics required only one single change in our interpretations and that has to do with a connection across the north Atlantic from North America across Greenland to Norway and northern England. All other aspects… all other connections that plate tectonics established are irrelevant as far as birds are concerned because they deal with much earlier periods.

The late German-American biologist Ernst Mayr (1904-2005) was a leading light in the field of evolutionary biology, gaining a PhD at the age of 21. He was also a tropical explorer and ornithologist who undertook an expedition to New Guinea and collected several thousand bird skins. In 1931 he accepted a curatorial position at the American Museum of Natural History. During his time at the museum, aged 37, he published his seminal work 'Systematics and Origin of the Species' which integrated the theories of Darwin and Mendel and is considered one of his greatest works.

Listeners: Walter J. Bock

Walter J. Bock is Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Columbia University. He received his B.Sc. from Cornell and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard. His research lies in the areas of organismal and evolutionary biology, with a special emphasis on functional and evolutionary morphology of the skeleto-muscular system, specifically the feeding apparatus of birds.

Tags: Doctor of Philosophy, PhD, Europe, Melanesia, 1974, Evolution and the Diversity of Life, 1960s, Atlantic Ocean, North America, Greenland, Norway, England

Duration: 1 minute, 47 seconds

Date story recorded: October 1997

Date story went live: 24 January 2008